Critics pan 'sour' Spice Girls musical

The long-awaited Spice Girls musical failed to go down well with the critics following its premiere last night.

After months of hype, 'Viva Forever!' - penned by Jennifer Saunders - opened at the Piccadilly Theatre in London.

While Emma Bunton, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Geri Halliwell were photographed together on the red carpet, Victoria Beckham turned up later and sat away from her former bandmates.

Produced by Judy Craymer, 'Viva Forever!' satirises 'The X Factor' and is the story of an aspiring singer who, with her best friends, gets swept up in a TV talent show which turns her life upside down.

But the Daily Mirror called the plot "clichéd" and the dialogue "leaden", and said that "laughs, from writer Saunders, are surprisingly few and far between".

"You would think it would be easy to strap the songs of one of the biggest girl groups in recent history to an exuberant story of girl power to create a worldwide money-making machine. But you would be wrong," Alun Palmer wrote.

"Viva Forever! even manages to take the Spice's girl power mantra and throw it back in their collective faces. Given half the chance, sister merrily stabs sister in the back," he said of the plot.

The Daily Mail's Quentin Letts was also unimpressed, calling the jukebox musical "a prize Christmas turkey".

He wrote that the show had "the makings of a notable West End flop. It's almost as if the thing has a death wish".

While the Spice Girls were "full of beans, a greater force for feminism than Harriet Harman or even Nick Clegg," the musical is "drudgy... sour and focused on failure," he wrote.

The Independent's Paul Taylor said the show was "lacking in any true original or challenging spark of its own".

"Viva Forever! forever? I rather think not," he wrote.

He said that there were "marked deficiencies in Jennifer Saunders' charmless, messy, lacklustre" writing, and that the musical was "embarrassingly derivative of Mamma Mia! and looks way past its sell-by date in its utterly surprise-free satiric swipe at X Factor".

The Sun's Poppy Cosyns, who wrote that seeing the Spice Girls at Wembley at the age of eight had been one of her childhood highlights, gave it a better review.

The show had "lived up to all the hype", she said, adding that "Saunders has done a great job with the script and the show flows really well."

The Guardian's Alexis Petridis wrote that the "cast are largely great" and that "there's nothing really wrong with Jennifer Saunders' script".

But he added: "The real problem is the songs. There aren't enough memorable hits in a career that lasted for three albums to support two hours of theatre."

He concluded: "Judging by the crowds of thirtysomething ladies leaving the theatre singing Stop and Say You'll Be There, Viva Forever! is critic-proof."

After the show ended, the Spice Girls led the audience in a standing ovation before joining the cast on stage for the curtain call where the band shared a group hug.

But earlier in the evening, while the other four girls sat together, giggling and hugging and posing for pictures on their mobile phones, Beckham kept the audience waiting for curtain up after arriving late because she was reported to be stuck in traffic.

She sat with husband David, who sang along and danced to the Spice Girls medley during the curtain call, and her three sons.

On stage, singer turned fashion designer Beckham thanked Saunders and producer Craymer, and added: "Thank you to my family for being here, I love you all."

Halliwell, who took along six-year-old daughter Bluebell, said: "There is one woman we have to thank and she is a true woman of girl power: Judy Craymer.

"We love you Judy. Thank you for making the Spice Girls' dream come true!"

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